Saturday, August 30, 2014

TCM TiVo Alert for September 1-7

September 1–September 7


BEING THERE (September 3, 8:00 pm): Peter Sellers was known for his versatility as an actor. He often played more than one character in films and could easily go from maniacal to subdued while always being interesting. Being There is one of Sellers' last films and his finest role. He is a simple-minded gardener in this 1979 film who learns everything from watching TV. One circumstance leads to another and Chance (Sellers) ends up being an adviser to the president of the United States with what he says interpreted to be brilliant advice. It is a clever, funny, heartwarming and beautiful. Melvyn Douglas as a wealthy businessman and adviser to the president is outstanding, and won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Sellers was nominated for Best Actor, losing to Dustin Hoffman (Kramer vs. Kramer). During his acceptance speech, Hoffman said he couldn't believe he beat Sellers; neither can I.

PLANET OF THE APES (September 7, 8:00 pm): Along with 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968's original Planet of the Apes is the greatest science-fiction film I've ever seen. Whenever it airs, I stop everything and watch it even though I've seen it at least 50 times and I own the entire DVD collection of the original five Apes films. Charlton Heston is among a group of astronauts who land on a strange planet and come across mute and not intelligent humans. They think they're going to run the place in a few weeks. It turns out the planet is actually controlled by talking apes. The interaction between Taylor (Heston) and three key apes - Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), Zira (Kim Hunter) and particularly Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) - are the keys to this movie. The ending is among the best you'll ever see. It turns out Taylor time traveled and landed on a post-apocalyptic Earth. So many of the lines are iconic, the makeup and costumes are incredible for its time (years ahead of its time), and the cinematography is amazing. 


HITLER’S CHILDREN (September 4, 1:00 pm): There’s junk, and there’s junk, but this one is great junk. Bonita Granville is Anna, a German girl born in America. Tim Holt is Karl. He’s in love with Anna, but he’s also in the Hitler Youth. Guess what comes first? Anna, for her part, just doesn’t get the whole Nazi thing. Given a chance to be a good little Nazi and study at the University of Berlin, Anna denounces the system and the Fuehrer instead. It’s one thing to denounce the system, but the Fuehrer? You can guess what happens to Anna from here, but I will tell you there’s a great scene where she’s publicly flogged at a concentration camp. No surprise here, but this film was RKO’s biggest moneymaker for 1943.

SAFE IN HELL (September 5, 12:15 pm): This is one of the most adult of the Pre-Code films, and brutally frank to boot. Dorothy Mackaill is a whore in New Orleans who believes she’s killed one of her johns. So she hotfoots it to the island of Tortuga, where she can’t be extradited. Unfortunately, she’s stepped from the frying pan right into the fire, as Tortuga is a sanctuary for every kind of pervert imaginable. To say this is one of the seamiest movies ever made is a definite understatement. Leonard Maltin says it’s more astonishing than entertaining, but I disagree. This is great low-class fun, and Mackaill fits the part perfectly.

WE DISAGREE ON . . . OUR TOWN (September 2, 6:30 am)

ED: A. Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about life in the fictional New Hampshire town of Grover's Corners in the years 1900 through 1913 is one of the theater's best-loved examples of Americana. Producer Sol Lesser and director Sam Wood have turned it into a film, and a pretty good one at that. You see, it all depends on how you look at it. One thing is for sure - it can’t be taken at face value because it depicts an America that most likely never existed. In that respect it’s like the Hardy Family series. So we look at other aspects, such as the performances, the mise-en-scene, the art direction, the scoring, sound, and photography. The performances are superb, led by a young William Holden and Martha Scott, who came over from the Broadway production. The film also has a treasure-trove of excellent supporting actors, led by Guy Kibbee, Thomas Mitchell, Beulah Bondi, Fay Bainter, and Stuart Erwin. It was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actress (Scott). The score, by Aaron Copland, is memorable, and was also nominated, as was William Cameron Menzies for Art Direction. Wood is a competent, if unspectacular, director, whose job was to implement producer Lesser’s plan. A large part of that plan involves changing the end from tragic to happy. It’s 1940, and we’re pretty sure that World War II is only a matter of months away, so who needs a downer? Take it for what it is, enjoy the performances and revel in Holden, so young and full of life.

DAVID: D+. If corny, sappy, dated films about life in a small town that's about as authentic as a $3 bill is your thing, then Our Town is your movie. Only William Holden's performance and a nice musical score saves this film from being a complete bomb. But I'm not watching a movie for the musical score or to see a single actor do a good job. The play has probably been done by thousands of high schools nationwide during the past 75 years and I'm sure several of them are as "good" as this 1940 film. Among the most annoying aspects of this movie is Frank Craven, the narrator who tells us more than anyone could ever want to know about the good people of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, during the early years of the 20th century. There's nothing interesting about the film and the characters. It's as if the film's plot is intended to be boring, and the folksy message beats the viewer over the head repeatedly to the point you give up hope of being entertained. In the play, Martha Scott's character, Holden's wife, dies during childbirth. In this film, she starts to drift into death, sees her deceased loved ones, remembers some of her memories and recovers to deliver the baby. Simply put: it's a bad movie.

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Dinner and a Movie

Seeing Lucy through the Alders

By Steve Herte

They say the first week back to work after a vacation is the worst. They're right. I was so relaxed I was making mistakes everywhere the first day. That was compounded by this ridiculous "hoteling" thing they have going on with moving the population from 110 West 44th Street into vacant cubicles in my building. I'll leave it at that. It took me a while to calm down from the excitement of my Turner Classic Movie Tour. It was great. That brings me to Friday. Well, you'll see. Enjoy!

Lucy (Universal, 2014) Director: Luc Besson. Writer: Luc Besson. Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Amr Waked, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Pilou Asbaek, Analeigh Tipton, Nicholas Phongpheth, Jan Oliver Schroeder, Luca Angeletti, Loic Brabant, Pierre Grammont, Pierre Poirot, Bertrand Quoniam, & Pascal Loison. Color, 89 minutes.

Does anyone remember the Outer Limits episode entitled “Sixth Finger?” It aired on October 14, 1963, and starred David McCallum as a scientist experimenting with speeding up evolution. He becomes super-intelligent and eventually evolves into pure intelligent energy.

Here’s Lucy. It’s 51 years later and it’s not about evolution per se but the net effect of gradually increasing the use of the human brain to its full capacity – essentially the same story. Gwyllim Griffiths (McCallum) grows a sixth finger and can play pieces Beethoven wrote but couldn’t play. Lucy (Johansson) attains 20% of her brain usage and learns Chinese overnight. The main difference (aside from the male/female lead) is that Gwillim willingly evolved and Lucy’s transformation was an accident.

Lucy’s introduction is as follows: “Life was given to us a billion years ago. This is what we’ve done with it.”

The film begins in China as Lucy meets her former boyfriend Richard (Asbaek) outside an office building and he tricks her into being handcuffed to a metal briefcase that must be delivered to Mr. Jang (Choi). Inside the briefcase are four bags full of blue crystals (reminded me of toilet freshener) intended to be smuggled out of China by three men and Lucy to Berlin, Paris, Rome, and wherever Lucy was going to be sent (that wasn’t clear), surgically implanted in their abdomens. The crystals comprise a new mind-altering drug called CPH4, which will sell for millions of dollars on the street. However, no one could predict that Lucy would refuse her captor’s sexual advances precipitating his knocking her to the ground and repeatedly kicking her belly and breaking the bag inside.

The drug has a different effect on women than on men and Lucy goes through a transformation which includes bringing back the revolving room effect we saw long ago in the Fred Astaire movie Royal Wedding (1951), and much later in Inception (2010). But Lucy doesn’t become a gruesome monster; instead she becomes more intelligent and revives Lara Croft (a role Scarlett was made for). She fights off her attackers and escapes.

Meanwhile, Professor Norman (Freeman) is giving a lecture on mankind and the percentage of brain usage increase from the primitive “Lucy” (Australopithecus – 7%) to today’s stage of evolution (10%), and posits what would happen if higher percentages were used. His lecture is accompanied by visual aids, and parallels the advances that current Lucy is making throughout the movie.

Lucy grows in power and returns to Mr. Jang, and after impaling his hands to his chair, she uses a Vulcan mind-meld to get the locations of the other three bags of CPH4. Then she notifies Paris Police Chief Pierre Del Rio (where did they get that name?), simultaneously sending photos of the three mules to his cell phone. He in turn notifies the airport security in Paris, Rome and Berlin. The three men are caught and brought to Paris. Ah, but Mr. Jang is not through. He learns where the three men are being kept and arrives there first. Two of the three bags are violently extracted before Lucy and Pierre arrive and Lucy extracts the third with her bare hands.

When she first calls Professor Norman she has to prove her abilities by not just being on the phone, but also on his television, computer screen and his radio. He gathers a group of his colleagues when she calls him a second time. As soon as he asks her where she is, she walks in the door. She again has to prove her strange powers – revealing the life secrets of one man by simply placing a hand on his shoulder. They liquefy the remaining bags of CPH4 and hook her up to them intravenously. It’s here that the special effects department pulls out all the stops. Lucy grows black tendrils that connect into all the computers in the room and goes time-traveling back to the Big Bang in stages. The bloodied and shocked Mr. Jang tries to sneak up on her with a gun to the shocked silence of the scientists and, just as he shoots, Lucy disappears.

Except for being extremely violent and gory, does it sound like “Sixth Finger”? Lucy is one hour and 29 minutes of special effects glory but not much else. Freeman does more acting in 30 seconds of silence than the rest of the cast does throughout. The soundtrack is negligible to non-existent, and the story; it was what it was. From the start you don’t really care about any one of the characters, which eliminates suspense, and many of the scenes are predictable. The dialogue (with the exception of anything Freeman says) is pedestrian, and well, who cares? It’s not what we’re here for. There is some real science in it and some good theory but generally, it’s an imaginative visual roller coaster.

Parents, be cautious. Those whose children are not familiar with violence or who are affected by the sight of blood should avoid this film. With the exception of special effects, Lucy will not be nominated for any awards in my opinion.

Rating: 2½ out of 5 Martini glasses.

157 2nd Avenue (10th Street)New York

When I was choosing a restaurant I went to Alder’s website and the dull greyness of the photo depicting the exterior attracted my attention for its sheer drabness. The menu seemed to have a preponderance of sausage dishes. Could I have stumbled on a German restaurant? No, it’s billed as “American.” I knew it would be an adventure.

On arriving at the corner of 10th Street and 2nd Avenue I could not see the name Alder anywhere. I actually walked by it once before checking the address. Finally, I saw it in red lettering above the door of a still nameless (at least from my point of view) bistro with a sidewalk café (not grey at all) graced by bright yellow umbrellas and a cool green wall enclosure. I walked to the unpainted wood door, which was recessed from the front wall and noticed to my left, written vertically, the name Alder. I entered and met the two young women at the Captain’s Station and they confirmed my reservation. I was led to a table near the back of this cozy (only 56 seats), dark, room with cream-colored walls and dim aluminum swags and faux open beam ceiling.

Soon Aaron, my waiter, appeared and greeted me. He took my water preference and presented the food menu and the drinks/wine list. The drink menu was printed on a simple folded piece of paper with the wines on the reverse side. Due to the darkness I could not read what was in any of the drinks and had to call Aaron over to read them for me. I chose Alder’s version of the Suffering Bastard (a drink I remember from long ago at the Hawaii Kai restaurant), which they call “Suffering Fools” – a very tasty and slightly spicy mixture of Bourbon, Juniper, Ginger and Honey. It was intriguing and delicious and was garnished with a thin length-wise slice of cucumber.

The food menu was a single page rubber-banded to a plank of wood. The entries were in a small brown type on a parchment background with their descriptions below them in tiny type (completely unreadable). Thanks to Aaron, I learned that they were organized simply from small-sized portion to large and didn’t have any standard categories and he again assisted me in putting together a three-course meal.

The wine list was slightly easier to read, being on white paper but the font was still thin. I asked Aaron why they were categorized "White Wines Made by Women” and “Red Wines Made by Women.” He told me that Chef Wylie Dufresne likes to have a theme to his wine list. OK, I think I like him for that. We went through the red wine list and I settled on the 2009 Maysara “Jamsheed” Pinot Noir from McMinnville, Oregon. Aaron left to put in my order.

When I finished my cocktail a smashing blonde asked me if I wanted another (she reminded me of the character Wendy Winters in the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour). Getting quick control of myself, I told her that I had ordered wine and mentioned how beautiful her long curly hair was. She thanked me and left.

Another server brought my first course, Pigs in a Blanket – six pieces of Chinese sausage wrapped tightly in a crunchy coating and sitting at various angles in jalapeno mustard on a slab of slate with a sweet chili sauce – definitely not my mother’s recipe. They were smoky, spicy and sweet at the same time and the coating was more like a pretzel crust than Poppin' Fresh dough. I enjoyed them and noticed several other tables ordering them.

The Pinot Noir had just enough body to compliment the first course and was a pleasing garnet color and had only a light nose. It did not overpower my second course, squash blossoms – stuffed with succotash and molé cream cheese and coated with a firm, but light crunchy shell in a chili relish. Again, this dish was not like any other serving of squash blossoms I’ve had before. Though the hardness of the coating was a surprise, it was wonderful and kept the contents hot and flavorful. A slab of slate was once again the serving dish for this course.

I had to complement the restaurant staff. I didn’t say I was a slow eater and yet there was plenty of time between courses to savor both the dish and the wine. The main course, rabbit sausage, was sliced in a beautiful white bowl on gribiche (a mayonnaise/egg sauce), baby asparagus and egg yolk with delicate bonito flakes (dried shavings of fish sliced from aged pieces of bonito, a kind of tuna) sprinkled on top and waving gently (as if alive) in the slightest breeze. The artistic appeal of the dish was entrancing and the smoky aroma emanating from the bowl was bewitching. And the taste was amazing: smoky, gamy and only slightly spicy. It didn’t look like that large a dish to me, and I contemplated adding a course, but as I finished it I realized that I needed room for dessert.

Aaron came to my rescue once more to help with reading and I chose the most unusual root beer pudding served in a stemmed glass with light cream on top. Aaron said it was a signature dish for Alder and I had to admit I had never had its like before. It was delightful. I didn’t order coffee as I was already in a great mood. The next thing I know Aaron brought me a glass of what I can only describe as Sparkling Rosé. It was a deep pink color and the perfect topper for a lovely meal.

Alder has been in business for a year and a half and describes itself as a Gastro-pub. That explains everything, the innovative recipes, the novel cocktail and the dressed-down décor. Even though there were no tablecloths or cushions on the chairs, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lauren Bacall: In Memoriam

By Ed Garea

It’s a scene every cinephile has seen at least 100 times and can quote by heart, perhaps the most iconic scene in Hollywood history. It’s from To Have and Have Not, Howard Hawks’ light-hearted 1944 take-off on the previous year’s hit, Casablanca. Lauren Bacall’s character, Slim, a woman of total mystery, is visiting Humphrey Bogart’s character, a hard-boiled charter-boat captain she calls Steve, in his hotel room. During the course of their encounter, she kisses him. “What did you do that for?” asks Steve. “I’ve been wondering if I’d like it,” she answers. Steve gives her a quizzical look, “What’s the decision?” “I don’t know yet,” she says, and she kisses him again.

It’s even better when you help,” she tells him.

As she prepares to leave the hotel room, she turns toward Steve. “You know, you don’t have to act with me, Steve,” she says. “You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.” With that she leaves. Bogart, with the expression of someone who just can’t believe his luck, thinks it over for a minute. Then he whistles to no one in particular, except maybe we in the audience.

And with that we have just grasped the essence of the allure of Lauren Bacall and why she became a star. She was Cool before there was such a thing as Cool. Known for her striking looks and husky, sultry voice, the result of a two-pack-a-day habit, she was the embodiment of the independent woman, a role she played in one form or another until her brand of sass died out in the ‘50s, replaced by the icy aloofness of Grace Kelly and the needy, borderline trashiness of Marilyn Monroe and her seemingly uncountable imitators.

If that wasn’t enough, she went and married the King of Cool himself, Bogart. They became the storybook Hollywood couple. In her memoirs she said “No one has ever written a romance better than we lived it.” She called him Bogie and he called her Slim. She gave him a son, Stephen, named for Bogie’s character in To Have and Have Not, and a daughter, Leslie, named for Leslie Howard. Betty cut back on movie offers to be closer to her young family. It was heaven on Earth . . . while it lasted. Alas, it all came to an end in 1957 when Bogie passed away from cancer of the esophagus at the age of 57. Betty went into a professional and deeply personal tailspin.

Slowly she fought to re-establish herself as an actress, returning to Broadway, where she had not been since 1942. It took awhile, but good stage roles finally came her way and she made the most of them. A second marriage in 1961 to actor Jason Robards, Jr. ended in divorce in 1969, largely due to his alcoholism.

As the Bogart legend began to take off in the ‘60s, she was embraced by the public as his wife and leading lady, yet she felt trapped by it all, seeing herself as defined only as the Widow Bogart. She wanted to be known for her own accomplishments in the arts, but in interviews, she resigned herself to the inevitable. One can’t fight one’s history.

The road to becoming Lauren Bacall was not an easy one. She was born Betty Joan Perske in Brooklyn on Sept. 16, 1924, the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Romania, William and Natalie Perske. Her parents divorced when she was six years old; she would have no contact with her father after that. Her mother moved to Manhattan, adopting the second half of her maiden name, Weinstein-Bacal. So Betty Joan Perske became Betty Joan Bacal.

Her mother’s family was close-knit, but not an affluent one. Finances were always a problem as she grew up. Through the generosity of her Uncle Charlie, she was able to attend the Highland Manor School for Girls in Tarrytown, N.Y., graduating from grade school at age 11. She attended Julia Richman High School in Manhattan and studied acting at the New York School of the Theater.

She graduated from Julia Richman in 1940 and became a full-time student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she met fellow student, and first crush, Kirk Douglas. However, she was forced to leave after the first year because her family could no longer afford the tuition. A scholarship was out of the question: the Academy did not offer scholarships to women at that time.

With no other prospects she turned to modeling, landing jobs with David Crystal, a Seventh Avenue dress manufacturer, and Sam Friedlander, who made evening gowns. It was 1941, she was 16, and the jobs, when they came, paid little. During lunch hours she stood outside Sardi’s, hawking Actor’s Cue, a casting tip sheet, and hoping to catch the eye of producers. She also worked as an usher at Broadway theaters, and became a hostess at the newly-opened Stage Door Canteen.

Her efforts eventually landed her a walk-on part in a Broadway play called Johnny 2 x 4. Though it paid only $15 a week and closed in eight weeks, it was a beginning. Meanwhile, her job as an usher led her to make the acquaintance of Paul Lukas, who would serve as an informal mentor, with his advice proving crucial to her career development.

Later that year, producer Max Gordon cast her in Franklin Street, a comedy directed by George S. Kaufman. The play had a hard time catching on with the public and closed out of town for what was called “retinkering.” It would be her last time onstage for 17 years.

Returing to New York, a friend introduced her to Nicolas de Gunzburg, an editor at Harper’s Bazaar. He invited her to come to his office the next morning and took her to meet Diana Vreeland, the fashion editor. Vreeland spotted her talent and photogenic potential, and asked her to return the next day to meet the photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe. She took test shots, and a few days later Vreeland called with a job offer. It paid $10 an hour, a substantial sum in those days.

During this time Betty added an extra “L” to her last name to avoid the constant errors in pronunciation. She worked steadily for Vreeland, appearing in a number of advertisements. But it was a full-page, color picture of her standing in front of a window with the words “American Red Cross Blood Donor Service” on it - a poster of a besuited, independent woman caught up in the war effort. Lit rather provocatively and noirishly, the picture caught the eye of Columbia Studios, David O. Selznick, and Howard Hughes, each of whom sent inquiries. But it was a woman she had never met, Nancy “Slim” Hawks, which led to the offer she couldn’t refuse. Slim showed the picture to husband Hawks, who immediately spotted a connection between the young model and his wife. Hawks and partner Charlie Feldman offered to sign her to a seven-year, personal contract. Betty accepted, and, at the age of 18, left for Los Angeles by train with her mother. She would start at the princely sum of $124 per week.

Hawks became a surrogate father and she in turn allowed him to live out his fantasy of becoming a Svengali, taking a kid from nowhere and molding her into a superstar. He renamed her “Lauren,” to add a little glam, as ”Betty” was too friendly. He also had her work on deepening her voice (he disliked women screeching), sitting in her car up on Mulholland Drive reading The Robe aloud by the hour, and the aforementioned two-pack-a-day cigarette habit. She was also on call as a protégé at parties, so Hawks could show her off to various studio heads and the like, all the while searching for the perfect vehicle to launch her film career.

He finally found it in his adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not. Hawks planned the film to be a wittier take on Casablanca, and, as with all his adaptations, the only resemblance between the original and the adaptation was the title. Hawks created a character for Bacall, a woman of mystery named Marie Browning. From scant clues provided in one of the original drafts of the screenplay, it seems that Slim is a kept woman whose sugar daddy was killed by stray gunfire during a police raid at the hotel where they were staying. However, in the final cut, Hawks dispensed with explanations - they weren’t necessary. We first meet her when she picks the pocket of an obnoxious client (Walter Sande) of the story’s main character, charter ship owner Harry Morgan (Bogart). She quickly develops a flirtatious relationship with Morgan. He calls her “Slim” (Hawks honoring his wife), and she calls him “Steve.” He buys her an airline ticket to take her off the island, but she stays around to be with him.

To Have and Have Not is set on the Caribbean island of Martinique. The original location was to have been Cuba, but the Cuban government complained to Washington, which, in turn, informed Jack Warner. Besides, Martinique was more mysterious and romantic. Controlled by Vichy, it had the natural parallels to Casablanca. The leader of the Resistance approaches Steve to smuggle in an important figure, but he refuses. However, needing the money, Morgan agrees and soon incurs the wrath of the police. Therein hangs the plot.

When Bacall was informed who her co-star would be, she was less than thrilled. Bogart did nothing for the young Betty Bacall. In her memoirs she told of her mother and sister taking her to see Casablanca when it opened in New York. Although they all loved it, Rosalie was gaga over Bogart, proclaiming him to be sexy. Bacall didn’t share her sister’s enthusiasm; her idea of the ideal man was Leslie Howard or Cary Grant. That opinion was soon to change. As she said in her memoir, By Myself: “She thought he was sexy. I thought she was crazy . . . So much for my judgment at the time.”

When she finally met Bogart, she found him to be warm, funny, and supportive of a nervous young actress just embarking on her career. Bacall was so nervous at first that her head shook. To combat the shaking she tilted her chin downward to steady herself. She then looked up with her eyes toward the camera. The result was electrifying. When the film was previewed, audiences were enraptured. Bacall was both provocative and preposterous. If an older actress had delivered those lines about knowing how to whistle, audiences might have broken out into laughter. But when a young woman, trying to convince everyone in the room that she’s worldly, speaks them, the same lines evoke silent admiration. Hawks took advantage of the way she tilted her head, dubbing her as “The Look” in publicity.

Their relationship developed slowly. They became fast friends and the crew could see chemistry developing. One night, according to Bacall, after the day’s filming was finished, Bogart stood behind Bacall in her dresser as she brushed her hair. Suddenly he lifted her chin up and kissed her. Real life transcended their characters and Bacall knew she was in love.

There were two obstacles to their happiness. One was Hawks, who quickly caught on to what was happening. Jealous (he was intent on having her himself), he warned her not to risk ending her career just as it began. He also threatened to send her to Monogram Studios, sure death for a young actress on the rise. When she told Bogart later, he calmed her by pointing out that Hawks had too much invested to ship her to Monogram. He was proved correct when Hawks next cast the two in The Big Sleep. Hawks and the studio basked in the success of To Have and Have Not, and there was no way they would allow the private romance to derail further business, especially when they could build on said rumored romance to stir ticket sales.

The other obstacle was more daunting: Mayo Methot. She was Bogart’s third wife and his most tempestuous relationship. Known about town as “the Battling Bogarts,” they endured many a physical confrontation, usually brought on and fueled by large quantities of alcohol. The difference between the two was that while Bogart liked to drink, Mayo was a full-blown drunk whose worst side came out when loaded. She was not only dangerous, but also potentially lethal - once stabbing Bogart in the back during one of their fights. Bogie and Betty had to take care not to arouse Mayo, who, at any rate, was always suspicious of her husband.

During the filming of The Big Sleep Bogart told Bacall that he was giving Mayo one last chance. She had agreed to sober up, and it was the decent thing to do. Bacall was devastated. Their off-screen relationship affected the on-screen relationship as their innuendo took on new meaning. Bogart also began to miss days on the set. He was drunk, depressed, trying to save his marriage. He finally walked out on Mayo after coming home one day to find her liquored up and on the warpath. He took an apartment at the fabled Garden of Allah and began divorce proceedings. As his divorce wore on, the lovesick Bogey wired Bacall, “Please fence me in Baby - the world’s too big out there and I don’t like it without you.” When he was finally granted the divorce from Mayo, he and Bacall were married on May 21, 1945, at Malabar Farm in Lucas, Ohio, the home of Bogart’s close friend, writer Louis Bromfield. Bogie wept freely as he saw his bride walk up the aisle. He was 45; she was 20.

After their honeymoon it was back to work at Warner’s. Hawks had acknowledged defeat by selling her contract to Warner Bros. Bacall’s next assignment was the 1945 thriller, Confidential Agent, with Charles Boyer and Peter Lorre. Herman Shumlin was the director, and unlike Hawks, offered no guidance to the fledgling actress. The result was a performance that came off cold, not cool, without the zing of her Hawksian characters. “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing,” she said in her memoir. “I was a novice.”

What helped her at the time was that while The Big Sleep had finished before Confidential Agent, it wasn’t released until the next year, 1946, due to changes and reshoots Hawks made to expand Bacall’s character. It also helped that her next two movies, Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948) were shot with Bogart as her co-star, though in both movies, the sassy Bacall was nowhere to be seen, replaced by a more self-effacing and low-key Bacall. She was beginning to wind down her movie career to concentrate on her marriage and start a family. And, in keeping with the Warner’s tradition, she was eventually suspended 12 times by the studio for rejecting scripts.

One other thing Bacall took time off for was politics. The Bogarts were among 500 Hollywood personalities to sign a petition protesting what they termed as the House Committee on Un-American Activities’ attempt “to smear the motion picture industry.” They flew to Washington as part of a group known as the Committee for the First Amendment, which also included Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly, John Garfield, Ira Gershwin, and Jane Wyatt. Later, bowing to studio pressure, Bogart stated publicly that he believed the Washington trip was “ill-advised.”

The new Mrs. Bogart’s son, Stephen (named for Bogart’s character in To Have and Have Not), was born on January 6, 1949. Daughter Leslie (named for Leslie Howard) followed in August 23, 1952. Still under contract to Warner Bros., Betty cranked out two films in 1950. The first, Young Man With a Horn, co-starred Kirk Douglas and Doris Day. The second, Bright Leaf, co-starred Gary Cooper. Both were considered decent films, but both fared badly at the box office. It wasn’t until 1953 that she had a box-office hit, playing the gold-digging Schatze Page in Jean Negulesco’s How to Marry a Millionaire, along with Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe.

She also remained active in politics, supporting Adlai Stevenson for president in 1952 and 1956. Back on the domestic front, she helped her husband host informal parties at their home in the Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles, sometimes as frequently as five times a week. She accompanied her husband to various film locations, and also ruled as den mother for what became known as the Hollywood Rat Pack. According to legend, the group got its name from Lauren Bacall after seeing Bogart and his friends return from a night in Las Vegas. “You look like a goddamn rat pack,” she said, and the name stuck.
Tired of suspensions from turning down crappy roles, Bacall bought out her contract with Warner’s. But it didn’t pay off the way she hoped, for all she got was a role in Douglas Sirk’s overrated soaper, Written on the Wind (1956), an unbilled cameo in Jed Harris and Rod Serling’s Patterns (1956), and a career girl who impulsively marries Gregory Peck in the passable Designing Woman (1957). Fortunately, there were other avenues to travel.

In the early ‘50s, the Bogarts began starring in radio dramas., such as the adventure series Bold Venture (in part based on To Have and Have Not). They expanded this in the mid-1950s to include television, starring with Henry Fonda in a live television version of The Petrified Forest, the 1936 film that starred Bogart, Bette Davis and Howard. Bogart reprised his role as Duke Mantee, while Bacall played Davis’s idealistic waitress, and Fonda played the dreamy Howard role. In 1956 Bacall co-starred with Noel Coward in a television production of his Blithe Spirit

In 1956, Warner Bros. had bought the rights to John P. Marquand’s novel, Melville Goodwin, U.S.A., a love story about a military man and a journalist based on Claire Boothe Luce. The studio pitched the idea to the Bogarts to star. Their last film together was Key Largo in 1948. The couple accepted, but even before pre-production planning began, Bogart told his wife that he’d had lunch with Greer Garson. Greer said she didn’t like his cough and insisted he go to see her personal physician, Dr. Maynard Brandsma, an internist at the Beverly Hills Clinic.

Brandsma examined Bogart and found an inflamed esophagus. Upon further testing, cancer was discovered. Bacall decided to put her career on hold to nurse her husband back to health and provide the children with an anchor during the troubled times. In By Myself, Bacall takes us through the painful details of Bogie’s demise and ultimate death. She notes his weight loss and his inability to eat solid food, the odor of decay in their bedroom and on his lips, the dumbwaiter he used to go from his room on the second floor to the first floor when guests arrived, and the never-ending hope they both had in a recovery until the doctors finally confessed to Bacall that everything they tried to eliminate the cancer had failed. She also described wearing the old robe she had worn in Dark Passage on the night he died in their bed, the sack in which Forest Lawn crematorium took Bogie’s lifeless body away, and how she tried to hide it from the children.

At Bogie’s funeral she displayed a model of his beloved boat, the Santana. She found keeping the real one too painful and, after a last trip during which she cleaned out his personal effects, she sold it. In trying to recover from her husband’s death, she fell into a relationship with Frank Sinatra that nearly bloomed into marriage; that is, until Frank got wind their engagement was leaked to the press and, blaming Bacall, cut her off cold. It turned out that Swifty Lazar had spilled the beans, but their relationship was over, and Bacall, in her memoirs, counts it as a blessing.

She was becoming disenchanted with Hollywood, noting that “Film is not a woman’s medium,” and that “If you weren’t the hottest kid in town, men stayed away from you.”  It was probably this disenchantment that led her back to the Broadway stage. In 1959, she starred in the George Axelrod comedy, Goodbye Charlie, playing a womanizer who is killed and returned from the grave as a woman. It only lasted for 109 performances, but her next parts would all be in hits.

Meanwhile, she met, and married, actor Jason Robards, Jr. While the union produced her third child, Sam, it ultimately failed due to Robards’ drinking. While Bogart could be a heavy drinker, there was a difference: Robards was a full-blown alcoholic, Bogart was not. Bacall, a non-drinker herself, was astounded at what alcohol did to her husband. When sober, Jason was fast, quick-witted, fun to be around, the loving parent. But, under the influence, he became surly, abusive, and neglectful of his children, leaving it to his wife to fill both parenting roles. Bacall, for her part, took time off to raise Sam. She also became a regular on the salon circuit between New York and Washington. Before she met Robards, Bacall moved to New York, purchasing a large apartment at the Dakota on Central Park West. This would be her home for the rest of her life.

As Sam got older, and to put space between her and Jason, Bacall took a lead role in Abe Burrows’ 1965 play, Cactus Flower, playing the prim assistant to a womanizing dentist played by Barry Nelson. Cactus Flower, based on the French play, Fleur de cactus by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy, was a huge hit, eventually playing for almost three years and 1,234 performances - ironically at the same theater where Bacall ushered in the early ‘40s. When I.A.L. Diamond adapted it into a movie, Bacall was overlooked in favor of Ingrid Bergman, who won a Golden Globe in the part.

As for Hollywood, Bacall appeared in only three films during the ‘60s. Shock Treatment (1963), Sex and the Single Girl (1964), with Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis, and Paul Newman’s semi-noir, Harper (1966).

She divorced Robards in 1969 after learning he was having an affair. She notes in By Myself that the marriage was dead long before the discovery, and that the years allowed her to become less dependent on the men in her life.

In 1970, she returned to Broadway in the hit musical Applause, an adaptation of the 1950 film classic, All About Eve, with Bacall as the aging diva, Margo Channing, a role made famous by Bette Davis. Although she wasn’t much of a singer, the role was a perfect fit. It was also another hit, opening at New York’s Palace Theater and running for 896 performances. She won the 1970 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. When Bacall’s contract was up in 1971, she bowed out and, in an ironic note, was replaced by Anne Baxter, who had played Eve Harrington in the original film. Bacall would go on to play in the London production of the show and star in a 1973 TV-movie adaptation, using the London cast.

In 1981, she won another Tony for starring in the musical adaptation of the 1942 Spencer Tracy-Katherine Hepburn classic, Woman of the Year. It opened at the Palace Theater and ran for 770 performances.

Her film work in the ‘70s, like the ‘60s, was sparse. She appeared as Mrs. Hubbard, one of many suspects, in the all-star Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and played the landlady in John Wayne’s last film, The Shootist (1976).

It turned out that her best work in the ‘70s was in a completely new field. Her 1978 memoir, Lauren Bacall: By Myself was a best seller and in 1980, won a National Book Award for Biography and Autobiography.

The 1980s were a mixed bag as far as Bacall’s film appearances went. She began with Robert Altman’s uneven ensemble piece, HealtH, in 1980. She then starred in the critical and financial bomb, The Fan (1981). She also appeared in the star-studded Appointment With Death (1988), with Peter Ustinov as Agatha Christie’s master detective, Hercule Poirot. Despite good reviews, it performed poorly at the box office.

She also returned to her first love, the stage, in 1985, as Harold Pinter directed her in the first London production of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth. The ‘90s - and her late ‘60s - arrived, and Bacall continued to work. As she said in By Myself, “My goal in life has always been to work. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I had nothing to do but wander.”

To be honest, Bacall also needed the money. Although Bogart left a decent estate when he died, the government glommed over half. Maintaining an apartment at the Dakota and a house in the Hamptons costs real money, lots of it. Which is why, as age broadened her features, she restyled herself with the help of a trainer and a make-up artist. She also found time to pen a second volume of memoirs, titled Now, in 1994.

In 1990, Bacall had a small role as pulp fiction writer James Caan’s supportive agent in Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery. She spent most of the ‘90s appearing in guest roles on television or in TV movies. As for theatrically released films, she had a minor role in Robert Altman’s all-star Pret-a-Porter(1994), and a really great role in Barbra Streisand’s The Mirror Has Two Faces (1997), where she played Streisand’s narcissistic, yet vulnerable, mother. It was perfect casting and Bacall was nothing short of brilliant. The role brought her an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress. 

Having won the Golden Globe and the Screen Actor’s Guild awards for Best Supporting Actress, the smart money was on her to win. But astonishingly, the Oscar went to Juliette Binoche for her part in The English Patient. I’ll never forget the look on Bacall’s face when Binoche was announced as the winner. I was dumbfounded. Hollywood had the chance to do the right thing and award an Oscar to a legend that blew away critics and public alike in her role. It wasn’t as if it were charity, giving an award to someone who had clearly seen better days. Bacall’s nomination in 1997 was her first, despite some 40-odd years of superb performances. It’s been put forward that Miramax Films, which produced The English Patient, campaigned heavily for their movie. However, consider some of the other travesties in Oscar’s history. Simply put, Bacall was screwed out of the award. Even Binoche was astonished by her victory.

However, Bacall was tougher than people supposed. The year before, she was given the Cesar, the French equivalent of the Oscar, for her lifetime body of work. Two years prior she was presented with the Commadeur des Arts et Lettres by the Minister of Culture, Jacques Toubon. Shortly after the Oscars, Bacall was selected as a Kennedy Center Honors recipient. In 1999, the American Film Institute voted her one of the 25 most significant female movie stars in history. As for the Academy, it took them until 2009 to present Bacall with a statue for “lifetime achievement.”

It was also during the ‘90s that Bacall began using her distinctive voice in television commercials and cartoons, doing everything from being a spokesperson for the Tuesday Morning discount chain to producing a line of jewelry with the Weinman Brothers Inc. to using her voice to hawk High Point coffee and Fancy Feast cat food.

As the new century dawned, her taste in films changed. No longer looking to secure parts in commercial movies, she instead looked to independent films. She appeared in two films for Danish director Lars von Trier, Dogville (2003) and Manderlay (2005), Birth (2004) for Jonathan Glazer (2004), and The Walker, for Paul Schrader (2007).

She also did a cameo in The Sopranos (2006) as herself, and is mugged by a masked man, who later turns out to be Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli), mugs her. Her last listed credit was in 2014 as the voice of Evelyn in the cartoon Family Guy.

Bacall passed away on August 12, 2014, in her home at the Dakota from a stroke. She was 89 years old. Sons Stephen Bogart and Sam Robards, daughter Leslie Bogart, and six grandchildren survive her. 

If she had lived, she would be doing what she loved best – working.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Magical TCM Mystery Tour

By Steve Herte

The skies were threatening to open up as I left my hotel on 47th Street in Manhattan. Hearing the forecast before I left, I gave myself enough time so as to arrive at the meeting place, Ellen’s Stardust Diner (home of singing wait staff), on the corner of 51st Street and Broadway by 11:15 am August 12. I met my fellow tourists standing on line waiting for the red bus that would take us on a magical journey into movie making history. Surprise! The bus was blue and white. For some reason they could not get the red one, but Sarah, our perky, enthusiastic tour guide apologized and explained that the interior of this bus is exactly the same as the red bus. And it was quite comfy.

As we boarded she checked us off her list of 32 passengers. When she came to me I needed no introduction. “You must be Stephen,” she said. As I climbed aboard and found an empty seat, I noticed the several video screens at focal points in the bus and I made myself comfortable. I had my umbrella tucked in the back of my camera bag as a “just-in-case” measure. As I would learn later on, I didn’t need it until the end.

Sarah introduced herself and the driver, Foster, when all were seated. Looking at Sarah, she seemed to me as if she could step right into a movie; her looks were striking, guaranteeing our attention. (Researching later on IMDB, I discovered she was indeed an actress. What a wonderful way to fill the time between assignments.) She proceeded to play an introductory video starring film historian Robert Osborne. The opening number from On the Town (1949), “New York, New York,” followed this, setting the mood perfectly. The next clip, as the bus started uptown, was from Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town (1950), and soon we were in Columbus Circle. 

Sarah used video clips as we passed locations appearing in It Should Happen to You (1954), Taxi Driver (1976), and 3 Men and a Baby (1987). She pointed out the elegant building featured in Superman (1978) where Lois Lane’s penthouse apartment was filmed, joking that she couldn’t understand how a line reporter could afford such an apartment. The most memorable scene was from Ghostbusters (1984) as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man happily lumbers up Broadway with 2 Columbus Circle (now the Museum of Arts and Design) on his left.

As Foster navigates up Central Park West, Sarah plays clips and indicates locations from The Out-of-Towners (1970) and Wall Street (1987), and at 65th Street she points out the building that became known as “Spook Central” in Ghostbusters. As we pass the famous restaurant (I consider it a tourist trap, but that’s just me) Tavern on the Green, we learn that it doubled as a casino in The Eddy Duchin Story (1956).

Our first stop was across Central Park West from the Dakota Apartments, home to the recently decreased Lauren Bacall and Yoko Ono, and our group debarked to photograph the ornate iron gates at the entrance and hope for “sightings.” Sarah informed us that the hotel was featured in Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).

Then we traveled to 77th Street and the American Museum of Natural History, featured in Night at the Museum (2006), Splash (1984), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), and On the Town. Sarah ran the clip of Anne Miller tap-dancing before an obviously fake long-necked dinosaur skeleton. Someone knocks a kneecap loose and the whole structure comes crashing down. Afterward we saw a clip from an interview with Anne Miller about that scene where she proudly states that she learned the name of the creature, “Pithecanthropus Rex.” (Someone really pulled a fast one on her – Pithecanthropus was an ape-like ancestor of man.)

Foster then drove down Columbus Avenue, where between 70th and 69th Street, Sarah pointed out the location of the Emerald Inn, featured in the movie The Apartment (1960), 205 Columbus Avenue (which has since moved to 72nd Street). A right turn onto 69th Street revealed the site of the “Shop around the Corner” from the movie You’ve Got Mail (1998). Unfortunately, it’s now occupied by a dry cleaner.

A left turn onto Broadway once again took us past Lincoln Center where, before it was built and just after the previous neighborhood was torn down, a scene from West Side Story (1961) was shot. Other movies featuring Lincoln Center in various ways were GhostbustersAnnie Hall (1977), Serpico (1973), The Producers (1967), and Moonstruck (1987).

As we turned right going up Amsterdam Avenue Sarah played a clip that turned out to be one of the first movies ever made, and titled Mounted Police Charge (1896)Continuing on Amsterdam Avenue, Sarah pointed out locations featured in The Lost Weekend (1945), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) and The Naked City (1948). Nearing 73rd Street and turning left on 74th to head up Broadway, Sarah waxed poetic of the beautiful Beaux-Art style of the Ansonia Hotel seen in The Sunshine Boys (1975) and right nearby, Verdi Square, bringing memories of Three Days of the Condor (1975).

Our next landmark movie site was a building called “The Apthorp,” located between 78th and 79th Streets on Broadway, and featured in Eyewitness (1981) and Network (1976). Just past 80th Street was our second stop, and everyone was able to shop at the famous Zabar’s, which doesn’t really have a cash-only line as seen in You’ve Got Mail.

Refreshed and sated we continued on to the Floral Market from Hannah and Her Sisters, between 92nd and 93rd Streets. Then, turning right onto 96th Street, we saw Saint Francis Church, featured in When Harry Met Sally (1989), and Foster used the 96th Street transverse road to cross Central Park. At this point Sarah posed a tidbit of movie history, stating that Central Park is the most filmed area in the world and that it’s larger in area than the Principality of Monaco. Movies showing parts of Central Park include Barefoot in the Park (1967), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Sweet Charity (1969), Where’s Poppa? (1970), and Marathon Man (1976). As usual, Sarah backed up her information with several clips.

Next on our tour of movie-making-land was the famous building designed by Frank Lloyd-Wright, the Guggenheim Museum, which graced the backdrop of four movies: Working Girl (1988), Arthur (1981), Daddy Long-Legs (1955), and Cactus Flower (1969). 

The Elizabeth Taylor fans on the bus “ooh’ed” and “ahh’ed” as we drove past 1050 5th Avenue, featured in a scene in BUtterfield 8 (1960). Then as we approached 82nd Street, the Metropolitan Museum of Art filled our field of vision on the right, and was where Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan had an improvised scene in When Harry Met Sally (1989) (in the Egyptian section, near the Temple of Dendur).

A smooth turn left on 72nd Street took us past 114 East 72nd, an address featured in Midnight Cowboy (1969), and an equally smooth turn right on Lexington Avenue brought us to our 3rd stop, where we saw the original brownstone from Breakfast at Tiffany’s at 71st Street.

Continuing down Lexington Avenue we passed the Barbizon Hotel at 63rd Street, where both Grace Kelly and Liza Minnelli stayed at one time, and then it was on to Bloomingdale's on 59th, where scenes from Splash (1984) and Moscow on the Hudson (1984) were shot. Robin Williams had to learn Russian to be able to perform the role, and his character defects in Bloomingdale's.

Foster takes a left turn on 58th Street and we head for Sutton Place, where at Riverside Terrace (the most expensive neighborhood in town), the famous romantic park bench scene from Manhattan (1979), with a lit 59th Street Bridge, was filmed. Needless to say, there is no bench there now, and we learned that Woody Allen had the city leave the bridge lights on and the street light off to provide just the right lighting for the cameraman. As we strolled back to the bus, Sarah pointed out 444 East 57thStreet, former address of Aristotle Onassis.

Back on the bus, Sarah showed clips from Dead End (1937), My Man Godfrey (1936) and Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)But New York City proved how congested it can get when we tried to cross Third Avenue. A tow-truck hitched to a cab, followed by another tour bus, blocked our intersection for at least three changes of traffic lights because the traffic ahead of them wasn’t moving. No matter, for Sarah used the down time to conduct a movie trivia contest.

With Foster’s expert driving we finally made it through the New York gridlock and turned left on Lexington Avenue, where at 55th Street, Sarah indicated the location of the Friars Club, noting that it showed up in The Sunshine Boys (1975). She added that it was a predominantly men’s only club until the annual dinner was for Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall was not invited. She wasn’t happy, and the rules were changed.

After having promised us (before the traffic jam) that we would see the site where Marilyn Monroe stood in the famous photo from Seven Year Itch (1955), we arrived at the subway grating in front of the restaurant L’Entrecôte (fourth one from the left) at 53rd Street. However, Sarah informed us that the scene was later re-shot on a studio set because the technical crew couldn’t drown out the catcalls and hoots from the men watching from the sidelines.

Nearing 51st Street, Sarah pointed out the Art Deco electrical embellishments on the old General Electric Building and, right after it was the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which figured in Coming to America (1988), Ma and Pa Kettle Go to TownBroadway Danny Rose (1984), and of course, Weekend at the Waldorf (1945). As Foster looped right around the Waldorf onto Park Avenue, Sarah treated us to another historical fact: Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s private train car is still beneath the Waldorf in an abandoned station. She then indicated the former Pan Am Building (now the MetLife Building) at the end of Park Avenue, featured in Live and Let Die (1973) and which had a monster-sized hole punched through it in Godzilla (1998).

A little farther up Park Avenue we saw Saint Bartholomew’s Church, the setting for the wedding in Arthur and, at 52nd Street, the sleek lines of the Seagram’s Building, which appeared in The Best of Everything (1959), Baby Boom (1987) and Scrooged (1988).

At 63rd Street Foster turned left, crossed Madison, and with one more left turn we were back on 5th Avenue in front of the Hotel Pierre, site of a scene from Scent of a Woman (1992). Then on we rolled to Central Park South and its abundance of sites. First up was the Plaza Hotel, which was the setting for (surprise) Plaza Suite (1971), Home Alone 2 (1992), and North by Northwest (1959) (the famous scene in the Oak Bar). 

Next was Bergdorf Goodman’s Department Store, which was seen in Arthur. Across the avenue is FAO Schwartz, the location for Tom Hanks dancing on huge piano keys in Big (1988)And, at 57th Street, we saw the flagship store of Tiffany’s, seen in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Sarah interjected a story about Audrey Hepburn trying to get something different to eat there because she didn’t care for Danish pastries. As we left Central Park for the last time she mentioned that Barefoot in the Park actually referred to Washington Square Park.

Two blocks later we were at the Saint Regis Hotel, where scenes from Radio Days (1987) and Hannah and Her Sisters were filmed. And again, two blocks later, at 51st, we passed Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, site of The Godfather 3 (1990) and Miracle in the Rain (1956) - for both of which Sarah played clips. In the same area, seen via the promenade to Rockefeller Center Plaza, our bubbly tour guide pointed out the strange, 37-foot-tall botanical sculpture “Split Rocker” by Jeff Koons looming over the gold statue of Prometheus. Supposedly the sculpture is one-half toy pony and the other half a toy dinosaur. I don’t see either. Films with scenes in Rockefeller Center include Nothing Sacred (1937) and On the Town.

Cruising down Fifth Avenue, we arrive at the main branch of the New York Public Library with its two enormous lions, Patience and Fortitude, guarding the entrance. Among its film credits are NetworkBreakfast at Tiffany’s and Ghostbusters. Here we heard a short dialogue between Bill Murray and a librarian. “Have there been any instances of insanity in your family?” “I had a cousin who thought he was Saint Jerome.” (Saint Jerome is the patron saint of libraries.)

We were over the three-hour mark when we arrived at the Empire State Building at 34th Street and its three major films: Sleepless in Seattle (1993), An Affair to Remember (1957), and everybody’s favorite, King Kong (1933).

Then, looping back up Madison Avenue, Foster navigated his way to Grand Central Station, site for Spellbound (1945), The Thin Man Goes Home (1945), North by Northwest and Superman (1978). Sarah played a “thank you” video from Robert Osborne, and we all stepped down from the bus. The rain, which had been holding off the entire time started to fall as we left, thanking Foster and Sarah for a wonderful tour, and entered the beautiful space that is the busiest train station in the country.

I had an amazing time. So much information, some I knew, a lot I didn’t. Having spent my entire life in New York City, I prided myself on knowing just about everything there was to know about the city. Taking this tour showed me just how much there was for me to learn - and this is a wonderful way to learn. I urge every movie buff to take the tour - not only those of us here in New York, but also tourists to the city. There is no better way for a tourist to get an introduction and feel of New York than to take the tour. The professionalism of the TCM staff will help open up new panoramas, not only for first-time visitors, but also for repeat visitors who may feel that they’ve seen just about everything New York has to offer. Just go to the website - - and make your reservations for what will be a day to remember.

As I departed, the excitement prompted the need for a time to calm down. I strolled through the rain back to my hotel thinking of Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain, which, unfortunately, was not shot in New York City.